The abrupt and forced withdrawal of the Indian women’s football team from the Women’s AFC Asian Cup startled everyone, especially because no other team in the tournament had recorded as many COVID-19 cases.
Blaming AFC for Covid-19 Cases
The hosts, who had two players in isolation before their first game, had over 12 cases in the camp before their second game against Chinese Taipei (23 January), and couldn’t field a team. According to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rules, this rendered India’s games null and void, thereby eliminating the hosts from the competition, leaving the team devastated.
In a news conference on January 26, India coach Thomas Dennerby blamed the AFC for the debacle, claiming that the AFC had held on to information concerning seven positive COVID-19 instances among hotel employees. This, according to Dennerby, is where the issue began.
On Sunday, India was eliminated from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup after a dozen COVID-19 instances among their players prompted the abandonment of a group match against Chinese Taipei just minutes before kickoff.
Another Round of Test
Given the circumstances, the AFC announced that Article 4.1 of the tournament rules took effect, stating that if a team fails to show up for a match, it will be “considered to have withdrawn from the relevant Competition.”
On January 16, the squad began training, and another round of tests revealed that one player had tested positive for COVID-19. On January 18, another athlete and two support staff members — the team physio and strength and conditioning coach — were revealed to be sick with the virus.
On January 21, another set of testing was conducted, and the number of COVID-19 positive players had climbed to ten the next morning. Two players were hurt and were wearing a plastic cast due to a bone fracture.
Only 11 COVID-negative athletes remained in the squad. Then there were more tests, and two more players tested positive at 5:30 p.m. on January 23, just before the Chinese Taipei match, bringing the total to 12.